A YEAR AGO, I WAS WORKING ON MY NOVEL. I'm still working
on my novel. I've written new chapters, and scenes, but haven't had a chance
to sit down and integrate the whole thing together, with a view to lunging
ahead to a complete second draft. Actually, since I've revised the first
twelve chapters so many times, the finished first draft should probably
be called Version 1.56 or something like that.
I used to complain about government grants for creative
writing, but the fact is that making a living -- in journalism or whatever
-- can really fuck with your schedule. I suppose if I lived somewhere isolated,
working as a contractor at a distance from my clients, where being in a
specific location doesn't really matter, I might have worked out a writing
schedule that allowed time, every day for work on the book. (My friend
John Scalzi seems to have this fortunate circumstance -- and the discipline
to take advantage of it.)
Unfortunately, as a freelance journalist, I hardly have
a solid week that isn't broken up by appointments or assignments that take
me all around the city for work. Three hours a morning, for a solid month,
in front of the computer would probably see me through to the end of the
first draft, but I haven't had that in months. Just yesterday, I spent
twelve hours following a city councillor around for a "Day in the Life
of..." story. The Mount Dennis piece took up over two months, mostly spent
travelling around the old neighbourhood, talking to whomever would make
the time for me.
It's all just a sad load of limp excuses, and I know it.
If only for the measly $1500 dollars in grant money I've accepted for this
project, I should finish the book. If only because I actually stand a remote
chance of getting published, I should forge ahead. If only because I feel
so terribly guilty at leaving Patrick Regan and all my other characters
hanging on the verge of... something...I should carve out those three hours
The previous paragraphs have, I'm sure you can tell, been
in the nature of a pep talk, to myself. Would somebody please provide me
with even more compelling reasons to get back to work, in earnest?
LAST WEEK, I WAS WAITING AT THE BARBER SHOP when I decided
to do something drastic. I had a heavy, itchy growth of beard, and if I
had another ten bucks in my wallet, I would have gotten a haircut, as well,
but the beard was my priority. Suddenly it was my turn. I sat in the chair
and said: "Shave."
The barber made the usual start, trimming off the excess
fur with his electric clippers, leaving the goatee, but I stopped him,
pointed to the goatee, and said: "Take it all off." He looked at me for
a second, asked me if I was certain I wanted it to go. I said: "What the
hell. It's summer."
Fifteen minutes or so later, I was clean shaven. Cleaner
shaven, in fact, than I've been in more than a decade. I've had my goatee
-- before that a van dyke, before that a beard -- for eleven or twelve
years. I have friends who've never seen me without facial hair. My motivation:
I thought it would be nice for K. to see my chin at least once before we
She likes it. I don't. It's probably not logical, but
I see my chin and I think: "Hmmm. Weak chin." I don't like my chin. I also
see scars from fierce teenage acne. No one else says they do. I hate it.
I'm growing the goatee back.
A COUPLE OF WEEKS BACK, I was in a position to spend a
bit of money. I'd just been paid for the Mount Dennis feature, after shooting
a wedding. There was money in the bank. What should I do?
I've wanted a bookshelf stereo system for up here in the
library since we moved in -- as it is now, I can only listen to music in
the living room. That would be about three hundred bucks. Good time to
Wrong. I went out and paid off one of my creditors --
$500 owing on a credit card I used once, to buy a decent turntable, a year
or two before I met K. I've probably paid for it twice over, in interest,
and they were my most persistent creditors, calling every other morning
when payments went overdue. Enough of that, I thought -- this'll shut them
It felt great. I'll never hear from Entitle Card again.
WHAT DO I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH in the next year? I want
to get married. I want to finish the book. I want to build a new bookshelf
or two. I want to make a steadier, or at least more substantial, income.
I want to write more magazine features. I want to take more photos. I want
to lose ten pounds.
I want to grow my goatee back. I want to pay off at least
one more of my creditors, on the way to becoming solvent again. I want
to be able to think about having a kid without breaking out into a cold
sweat. I want to write some short stories. I want to start a second book.
I want the two-line bio that runs under my writing to
be more substantial, more specific; to read more than just: "Rick McGinnis
is a Toronto writer and photographer." I want to get the couch re-upholstered.
I want to write for an American magazine. I want to shoot an annual report
for a big corporation. I want to find the best way to grill sardines over
an open flame.
I want to go to Spain again. I want to see Italy. I want
to learn better web design. I want to stop complaining about high school.
I want to wear more hats. I want a decent saute pan. I want new glasses.
I want to make a movie. I want to make more jam.